Timeline of a Typical Personal Injury Case:
It is important to understand how most personal injury cases are resolved. Obviously the first step is that a person suffers an injury as a result of another’s negligence. To keep things simple, let’s say that you are rear-ended in a car accident. Most people start by dealing with the insurance adjuster for the at fault party and try to settle the case on their own. At this stage, the insurance adjusters attempt to settle the case for the lowest amount possible. They will often offer far less than the medical bills, which leaves the victim subject to hospital liens and other bills that they may have to pay themselves. It is important to understand that it is in the best interest of the insurance adjuster to settle your case for as little as possible. In a nutshell, insurance adjusters do not represent your best interests if you have been injured by one of their insureds. Frankly, it is in most people’s best interest to contact an attorney immediately after an injury has occurred.
The next phase occurs if people are unable reach an agreement with the adjuster. At this phase most people hire an attorney to represent them in their personal injury case. I refer to this phase as the “prelitigation phase”. Here, the lawyer will try to negotiate with the insurance company to reach a reasonable settlement for the victim’s injuries, which likely include lost wages, property damage, medical bills and incidental damages. If the attorney and the adjuster are unable to reach an agreement then the case moves to what is essentially the final stage, formal litigation. Formal litigation is essentially everything that occurs after a claim has been filed with the courts. Formal litigation will almost always involve a discovery phase where the plaintiff and defendant are forced to turn over all relevant evidence to the case such as accident reports, photographs and medical records. The plaintiff will mostly likely have to submit to independent medical evaluations and other investigations. If the parties do not reach a settlement during the early stages of formal litigation, they will likely have to proceed to an arbitration or mediation. If the parties are still unable to reach a settlement they will enter the final phase of litigation, a full trial on the merits. A trial can last anywhere from one day to several weeks depending on the complexity of the issues involved. Unfortunately, when a case enters the formal litigation phase it can literally take several years for a victim to receive compensation for their injuries.
How Volume Firms Make Money off Your Injury:
Given the high volume of cases that they handle many volume firms simply do not have the ability to take their client’s cases through to the litigation phase. Taking their cases to trial would take a huge investment in time and money and would quite literally require hundreds of experienced litigation attorneys and support staff. This is an investment that most volume firms are simply unwilling or unable to make.
Volume firms make their money by rapidly settling cases with the insurance adjusters during the prelitigation phase. Often times volume firms don’t even have a licensed attorney handle their client’s case at this phase. Once the volume firm is able to reach a quick settlement with the insurance adjuster, often times for little more than the adjuster was initially offering, they will advise their client’s to accept the settlement agreement and close out the case. Usually these quick settlements serve the firm more than they serve the client. Once the attorney has collected their fee, plus their costs and satisfied any liens there is very little left over for the client, if anything. Tragically, many of these clients are left with lifelong injuries for which they will never receive adequate compensation.
Worse still, many of these volume firms do not handle litigation cases at at all. If they are unable to settle a case during the prelitigation phase, some Las Vegas personal injury firms simply farm out the case to a firm that specializes in litigation. Consequently, the client might think they are being represented by one firm when in actuality they are being represented by another. Other volume firms resort to an underhanded tactic where they simply stop working on a case and communicating with their client if they are unable to settle the case during the prelitigation phase. Once the client becomes unhappy with the attorneys service they will fire their attorney and hire another firm to finish out their case thinking they are through with the first attorney. Unfortunately, the original attorney will often file a lien against the case for their fees and costs spent up until the point where they were fired by the client. This can make it difficult for the client to find a new attorney, because they know that even if they are able to reach a settlement, they are essentially buying a lawsuit from the original attorney.
Volume firms are able to make millions of dollars by keeping their overhead low and settling hundreds of small cases in a year. By having non-attorneys work the cases and settling very early on in the case before they have invested significant amounts of time and their own money, these volume firms hardly serve their client’s interests.
How to Avoid Hiring a Bad Lawyer:
Foremost, if you have been injured in an accident I would strongly caution people from hiring a volume firm. Unfortunately these firms are often some of the most well known law firms in a given area and people simply don’t know any better. I would strongly avoid hiring attorneys whose ads saturate an area.
Gathering as much information as you can before you hire a lawyer can really serve to protect your interests in the long run. Before you hire an attorney, do as much research as you can. Research their firm online, look for customer reviews, search for news articles, try to screen out lawyers who may have faced problems in the past such as fee disputes, criminal charges, fines or sanctions from the state bar or the courts.
Once you have selected an attorney go to their office for your initial consultation, see what the atmosphere is like in the firm. If a firm looks unprofessional, it probably is. During your consultation, the best way to protect yourself is to ask lots of questions. Ask what their fees are, ask how many cases they handle, ask what kind of awards they have received in the past, ask if they have ever been sued for malpractice or faced discipline from the state bar, perhaps most importantly ask if an actual attorney will be handling your case and whether or not the firm handles litigation in house.
What Kind of Lawyer Should You Hire?
Hiring a lawyer is a difficult decision. I recommend hiring an attorney who will personally handle your case from start to finish. Hiring an actual litigation firm can assure that you will not get burned by a volume firm. Hire an attorney who is willing to fight for your case well past the prelitigation phase. The attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc. are experienced litigators who will handle your case from the beginning to the end and beyond if needs be. If it’s not in your best interest our lawyers don’t simply accept a “quick check” and we don’t farm out our litigation work. The attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc are licensed to practice law before all Nevada state and federal courts. We serve clients from all levels of our community and we will fight to ensure that you receive compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact one of the attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc as soon as possible for a free consultation. Any delay could negatively affect your legal rights. You may contact the firm through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (702) 750-9139 or visit www.connorpllc.com. You may also visit the firm’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/ConnorConnorPllc.